Real Food For Families

Finally…Chicken That Both My Kids Will Eat!


I struggle with chicken for dinner. It is so versatile and easy to make, but I almost never am able to convince Katie to eat it and Chris’s chicken appetite is what I would call inconsistent. Of course, they will both eat chicken from the red and white bucket, as I have previously lamented…but chicken that I have so carefully prepared with real food ingredients…to be honest…is usually a failure. But this week, I hit the jackpot. I half heartedly made this version, not thinking that anyone under the age of 12 would actually eat it. I called it “Popcorn Chicken” but didn’t really think I was fooling anyone. I placed one lone, sad piece on each of their plates for them to try. And then, miracle of miracles, I heard “Yum! More chicken, please!” What the what?!! More chicken, please??! Okay! We have a winner! Popcorn Chicken! Into the rotation you go!

There are two versions pictured above. The piece on the left is seasoned with a Cajun spice mix and the one on the right is a very simple coating of Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. I also made a maple Dijon dipping sauce that Katie and I loved. Next time, I will double this recipe and freeze some. This recipe was adapted from the Iowa Girl Eats website. Enjoy!

~Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 3 lbs., cut into bite sized pieces
~1 1/2 cups whole wheat bread crumbs
~1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
~salt and pepper
~2 eggs
~2 Tbs water

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Whisk the water and eggs together in a medium bowl and add the chicken pieces, swirling them around so that they are evenly coated in the egg mixture.
3. Mix together the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the egg coated chicken pieces and stir them in the bread crumbs until evenly coated.
4. Place the chicken in a single layer in a buttered 13×9 inch baking dish and spray lightly with cooking spray (I use olive oil in a mister). Bake for 10-15 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.

~1/4 cup real maple syrup
~1/4 cup plain yogurt
~1 1/2 Tbs spicy brown mustard
Mix all the ingredients together and drizzle over the cooked chicken or serve it on the side for dipping.

If you make extra chicken to freeze, put it on a baking sheet after you’ve coated it in the breadcrumb mixture (before baking) and when frozen, transfer it to a freezer bag. When ready to use it, bake it at 425, directly from the freezer without thawing it first.

Soooo happy that summer is finally here!


Herb-Almond Topping for Salmon or Chicken


Someone in our house got braces put on her teeth last week, so I should be doing a post about soup or smoothies today. It seems like that is all we have been eating around here lately. I was also feeling nostalgic for those toddler years as I lovingly cut up her tortellini into minuscule pieces…but that only lasted about 5 minutes…then I began to have flashbacks to a time when leaving the house meant packing a bag like I was going on a 3 week vacation and life was a never ending cycle of getting small, squirmy people cleaned and dressed and fed and changed. Ahhh…these days…how I love the 9 and 10 year old skill set…independently don boots and jackets. Not only feed themselves…but can even feed the dog! Not quite able to keep their bedrooms picked up, but at least I can shut their doors and contain the chaos. But, I digress…


This recipe is one that I tore out of a Country Home magazine back in 2008…I’ve made it so many times, I don’t really even follow the recipe any more. We love it on salmon, but you could also use it with chicken or pork.

~3 tablespoons chopped almonds
~2 tablespoons melted butter
~2 tablespoons bread crumbs
~1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
~handful of snipped fresh basil and/or Italian parsley (or a smaller amount of dried herbs)
~1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
~1 clove garlic, minced
~1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients and spoon on top of your fish or meat. Bake as directed. We usually bake salmon at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes and boneless, skinless chicken breasts at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes.

Now I’m off to make more soup!



Game Day


While the rest of the country is gearing up for tomorrow’s “Big Game Day”, here in Syracuse, our big game is today! Syracuse University’s Men’s Basketball team is undefeated and going up against the legendary Duke Blue Devils for the first time since moving from the Big East to the ACC. For those of you who don’t follow college basketball…I know this means nothing …but here in the ‘Cuse, where everyone bleeds orange…this game is going to be a lot of fun to watch!

So we’re serving up home made chicken wings, meatball sliders, macaroni & cheese, salad (I had to sneak something good for us in there!) and orange cheese doodles!! Yes, I am giving in for one day and letting the kids eat cheese doodles and Doritos. But that is the beauty of trying to eat well most of the time. When these special occasions come along, you don’t sweat the bag of artificial colors and flavors you’re letting your kids consume.

I do want to share the recipe for the chicken wings and sauce. I completely stole this from Catherine Newman’s blog, Ben & Birdy, so I will send you right over there. What I love about it…the hot sauce she recommends for making the classic Buffalo wing sauce…has 5 ingredients, all real food! Win! Enjoy the game!

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What is Polenta?


Every member of my family asked this question when they saw “Polenta Chicken Lasagna” written on the weekly menu plan, so maybe you are wondering about this ingredient as well. I keep hearing about it, but had never tried it until this past week. Polenta is made from cornmeal. It is an inexpensive, gluten-free grain that can be substituted for bread or pasta. It’s mostly complex carbohydrates, which are high in dietary fiber and digest more slowly than simple carbohydrates. This makes polenta a good source of energy for the body. Fresh made polenta has the consistency of grits, but it can be made into cakes for grilling or frying. You can also purchase it in precooked logs, wrapped in plastic, that don’t need to be refrigerated until opened. You typically slice the logs into 1/4 inch thick rounds to be used in most recipes. Have you ever tried polenta? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

~1 tube of precooked polenta (16 oz.)
~pesto (about 2 ounces or 1/4 cup)
~cooked chicken, diced or shredded, about 1 cup
~Tomato sauce (homemade or your favorite jarred sauce), about 1 1/2 cups
~mozzarella cheese, shredded or sliced thinly, about 8 oz.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Slice the polenta into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Arrange half of them in a single layer in the bottom of a buttered 8 inch square baking dish.
3. Spread half of the pesto over the polenta.
4. Arrange half of the chicken over the pesto layer.
5. Spread half of the tomato sauce over the chicken.
6. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese evenly over the sauce layer.
7. Repeat the layers, except leave off the final layer of cheese.
8. Cover with foil and bake at 375 (F) for 25 minutes.
9. Remove the foil, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on and return to the oven, uncovered for about 5 more minutes.

I made this in an 8×8 inch dish because I wasn’t sure if we would like it, but the next time I plan on doubling the recipe and using a 13×9 inch dish. There is also a lot of flexibility when it comes to how much time you want to invest in this recipe. You could make everything from scratch (crazy talk!!) or you could use pesto and sauce from a jar and pick up a rotisserie chicken. It’s also a perfect meal for using up leftover chicken, which is what I did this week.

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Chicken That Does Not Come in a Bucket


A few years ago, when I first started paying closer attention to how I was feeding my family, one of the things that I was most impressed with, was roasting a whole chicken. It amazed me that I could shake some salt and pepper on, along with a few other spices if I was feeling adventurous, and have dinner in the oven in less time than it would have taken me to figure out what to order at KFC (those drive through menus have way too many choices…I get very overwhelmed!). After about a year of this enlightened state of chicken on our dinner table, I happened to “treat” the kids to the famous chicken in the red and white bucket with the picture of Colonel Sanders on the front. About halfway through the meal, this is what I heard, “This is the best chicken I have ever had in my life!!” My shoulders drooped and I hung my head. But, as I sat there, feeling like Charlie Brown, it occurred to me, I must not give up! These are the same kids that say things like, “You never let us have any fun!”, and “You always make me clean up my room…every day I have to clean up my room!” (I will spare you the photos of the rooms in question.) So, I have to remember, that yes, the Colonel’s chicken is tasty, but maybe, certain people around here are exaggerating for dramatic effect. And just maybe, someday, when they have lived past 8 and 9 years old, the BEST chicken of their lives will not have come from a bucket.

Adapted from Dinner, A Love Story
~3 cups buttermilk
~1 1/2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
~3 garlic cloves, halved
~3 to 4 lbs. of chicken parts, bone in. Choose whatever parts you like, or cut up a whole chicken.
~Olive oil or cooking spray
~2 cups of your favorite plain breakfast cereal flakes, crushed up (we use Nature’s Path Heritage Flakes)
~1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
~1/4 teaspoon of dried thyme
~salt and black pepper to taste

1. In a very large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, mustard and garlic.
2. Place the chicken parts into the buttermilk mixture, cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large, shallow baking sheet with foil and coat lightly with olive oil or cooking spray.
4. In a large bowl, combine the cereal crumbs, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper.
5. Take the chicken out of the buttermilk (discard the buttermilk) and dredge in the crumb mixture until coated on all sides and then place on the baking sheet.
6. Spray the chicken lightly with cooking spray or olive oil and bake in the oven 35 to 40 minutes.

Sit down and eat the best chicken you’ve ever had in your life!

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For Those Weeks When You Just Need To Keep It Simple


As I mentioned in the last post, things are starting to look like an episode of Hoarders around here and we really need to get some clutter cleared out. And despite a very conscious effort to keep our activities under control…that little dry erase schedule on our fridge is looking a bit frightening. In the past, this kind of week would have included a lot of take out or ready made, convenience foods. But you really can keep it simple and make it yourself. And I would even bet that the time you spend is not really that much more than you would have spent on take out or pre-packaged foods. You still have to order the food and go to pick it up. Most packaged convenience foods still have to be opened and heated up. This is the time to fall back on meals that you can make without even opening up a cookbook with ingredients that you probably already have. Here are three simple meals…fish, pasta, and chicken. I’ll plan to make these three meals on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday and we’ll eat leftovers on Monday and Wednesday. And on Friday, I’ll post a photo of my empty dining room table!


1 1/2 lbs. codfish (or any other fish that you like)
1 to 2 Tbs butter
Salt & Pepper
Lemon juice (optional)
Green Beans, washed and trimmed
4 potatoes (medium sized, I used red potatoes and butter potatoes) sliced into 1/8 inch rounds
Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Toss potatoe slices with about 1Tbs olive oil and some salt and pepper and place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
3. Butter or oil a 13 x 9 inch baking dish and place fish in, skin side down. Place several thin pats of butter on top of the fish, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice if using.
4. Place both the fish and potatoes in the oven and bake uncovered for about 20 minutes. Stir the potatoes half way through the baking time, flipping them over if you have time.
5. While the fish and potatoes are baking, place the green beans in a steamer basket in a saucepan with a couple of inches of water, cover, and bring to a boil. Steam about 10 minutes. When done, drain them and add a bit of salt and butter.
6. Remove the fish and potatoes from oven when done and sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on the potatoes.


Olive oil
Tomatoe Sauce (29 oz)
Tomatoe Purée (29 oz)
Small onion, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar
16 oz whole wheat pasta of your choice
Italian Bread

1. In a dutch oven or large stock pot, sautee the onion in some olive oil until softened.
2. Add all of the remaining ingredients, stir together and bring almost to boiling over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
3. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 1 to 2 hours, stir every so often.
4. Cook your pasta according to package directions.
5. Serve pasta with the sauce and bread.
Note: As I’ve mentioned before, my Mother raised 8 of us, and if she had time to make her own sauce…I think we can all give it a try!


2 cups of brown rice cooked according to package directions
Handful of dried cranberries or cherries
Feta cheese (about 1 cup, crumbled)
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (2 1/2 to 3 lbs)
Dried oregano (about 1 teaspoon)
Lemon juice (about 2 tablespoons)
Pepper to taste
Zucchini (2 to 3), rinsed and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Start the rice if you are not using the quick cooking kind, otherwise start the rice after you’ve put the chicken in the oven.
3. Place the chicken in a buttered or oiled 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of lemon juice over it, then sprinkle it with the oregano and pepper, then about 1/2 cup of feta cheese, then the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice. Bake, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees.
4. Steam the zucchini in a steamer basket over 1 to 2 inches of water in a saucepan for about 10 minutes. Drain, and add a bit of salt and lemon juice if desired.
5. When the rice is done, mix in the cranberries and about 1/2 cup of feta cheese.

This chicken recipe is adapted from the Six O’ Clock Scramble cookbook, by Aviva Goldfarb.